Don't reward developers, it's their duty to provide green features

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 December, 2009, 12:00am

I am appalled by Lee Shau-kee's remarks ('Buyers will foot the bill, tycoon says', December 4) that, without incentives, flats might become pigeon holes, just like bird cages. It is like saying that, if the government stops giving out concessions favouring developers, property buyers will be punished.

These ruthless remarks, or threats, from one of the biggest developers in Hong Kong show that some developers never have the public interest in mind; all they care about is earning as much profit as possible.

Should the government continue to grant concessions, in the form of extra floor area for green features provided by developers? The answer is definitely 'no'.

We are facing an environmental crisis and it is everyone's duty to go green, including the developers. Floor-area concessions should not be permissible because they will only result in taller, bigger buildings.

Green practices should be encouraged and this can be done through a rating system that gives credits to those developers who provide the best green features, while highlighting those that do a bad job. This information should be made available to all property buyers so they can make sensible decisions. Some green features can also be mandatory.

Clear-headed consumers should be able to tell the difference between a genuinely green property and a bird cage, and they should not mind paying a bit more for the better choice.

On the other hand, I agree with the Real Estate Developers' Association suggestion that more public land could be taken from the land sales list to create more open space for heavily built-up areas, such as North Point and Hung Hom.

This strategy has proved successful in Central, where the Central Market and the former police married quarters in Hollywood Road have been removed from the sales list to provide breathing space for the surrounding areas.

But we also need a better town-planning system, involving a far-sighted vision for improving our living environment. More stringent planning controls, in terms of height and plot-ratio restrictions, should be applied over areas with a high building density to avoid wall effects, which block air flow. Public bodies, such as the Urban Renewal Authority, should stop setting bad examples of overbuilding, as in one case in Central, where four big towers will be built over the small streets of a historic outdoor market.

There is a lot the government can do to improve the urban environment and our city's sustainability. Withdrawing the concessions is just one step to show that it is no longer favouring developers. Hong Kong people should understand that controlling development is for the best, environmentally; it should not be seen as curtailing ownership rights.

The building density of urban Hong Kong is reaching a crisis level and the government should act immediately, before it is too late.

Katty Law, Central